Fine Motor Skills on your IEP
Remember this? Did you know that way back when…when Tupperware invented this toy, that you were using fine motor skills to play with it?
If you’re a Gen X’er like me, you definitely remember this Tupperware toy. When I was young enough to play with this toy, IEPs didn’t even exist. There was no such thing as an IEP goal for Fine Motor Skills.
Now, this popular Tupperware toy is actually making a comeback. Why? Because it is so great for fine motor skills and so many other things.
What is a Fine Motor Skill?
From Wikipedia: Fine motor skill (or dexterity) is the coordination of small muscles, in movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers—with the eyes.
Fine Motor vs. Other Skills
Comparing fine motor to gross motor is relatively simple for parents to do. I often say, think of a rainy day vs. a sunny day for recess. Gross motor is what they’d do on a sunny day (playground, running, jumping, swings). Fine motor is what they’d likely do for indoor recess (puzzles, games, coloring).
However, many get confused between the differences between fine motor IEP goals and ADLs (activities of daily living). Many ADLs require good fine motor skills, such as eating, getting dressed or using a TV remote. However, not all ADLs are fine motor skills. They may fall under executive functioning or working memory.
I only mention this because many IEP teams look to the Occupational Therapist to “fix all the problems” when it may not fall under their domain. Yes, OTs work on fine motor. And, some work on other things like social skills and EF. However, that does not mean that those skills are also fine motor skills, though they may involve fine motor activities.
When it’s more than Fine Motor Skills
I can only imagine how some kids feel. Imagine this–for years they’re struggling with handwriting. Practice and more practice. Everyone’s telling them that they don’t try hard enough. Eventually someone suggests dysgraphia. And it’s determined that is the child’s issue.
Not every child with bad handwriting has dysgraphia. However, if the child has received numerous interventions and tells you that they are trying their hardest, it is time to consider other options. Sometimes other issues manifest themselves as a lack of fine motor skills. You have to consider learning disabilities, vision issues and even interoception.
Even behaviors! If a child is exhibiting behaviors, it could be due to a lack of fine motor skills. Such as, avoiding tasks like writing because they struggle with it. Or, refusing to color with friends socially because they cannot do it.
Fine Motor Skills vs. Activities
Skills make up activities. Think of an ADL, such as preparing breakfast. Or getting dressed. Each one requires a number of skills to complete the activity. I only mention this to help you with the breakdown of goals and objectives on the IEP.
Adapting Fine Motor Skills for Different Ages
I tried to keep these as broad as possible without listing specific tools or objects. That is so that you can easily adapt the skill for the right age. You likely would not ask a teen to play with a preschool toy in front of their peers.
However, you can replicate the same task on real life items like smartphones and remote controls.
A zipper doll will not be met with much enthusiasm from a 15-year-old boy, right? But what about a Nike backpack? Practice on that instead.
All you have to do is take the skill or activity and put it into this formula:
Fine Motor Skills IEP Goal Ideas
- Hands are open and relaxed most of the time
- Grasp something, open hand-fistful of cheerios
- Pincer grasp-one cheerio
- Hold a crayon, fist grasp
- Hold a crayon/pencil tri grasp
- Brush hair
- Self feed, self feed appropriately
- Open containers large or small
- Close containers large or small
- Open or close small containers like ziploc
- Unscrew a lid, large or small
- Close a lid, large or small (think jar of sauce vs. tube of toothpaste)
- Block puzzles
- Regular puzzles
- Turn pages
- On/off switches, various types
- Use utensils, adaptive or regular
- Use a computer mouse
- Point, use a touch screen
- Tie Shoes
- Pull pants up/down
- Click a ballpoint pen, put lids on markers
- Scissors skills, beginner to advanced
- Use an eraser
- Tear paper into pieces
- Put items in a container/slot
- Writing, beginner to advanced
- Tear along a perforation
- Use a tape measure
- Put pegs in a peg board
- Play with Legos or Duplos and build
- Trace something with fingers
- Needle and thread (or lacing toys made for this purpose)
- Keys and locks
- Typing: one finger or qwerty style
- Use a calculator
- Use a hand puppet
- Make something out of playdoh or clay
- Sort into an egg carton
- Coins in piggybank
- Build with blocks
- Use a squirty toy
- Use a water gun with trigger
- Magnets on your refrigerator
- Dress/undress a doll
- Shaper Sorters, sorting toys
IEP Goals and Handwriting, Assistive Technology and OT
If it is determined that a child needs Assistive Technology, then the team needs to make sure that they have the fine motor skills to use whatever is appropriate for them. This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often it gets overlooked.
I hope this gets your wheels turning and you are on the path to some great fine motor goals on your child’s IEP.